Sunday, August 11, 2013


ALAK,BABAE, SUGAL. A staged picture of showing the different vices of men--women, alcohol, gambling. Kapampangans had their share of woes and troubles brought about by these abominable excesses. Ca. 1920s.

Kapampangans certainly left indelible impressions on foreign observers and travellers who came to our isles in the 19th century, prompting them to write not just about their virtues, but also their vices, which paint a bi-polar picture of our character, and a culture of extremes that shaped traits and habits that lingers to this day. 

 Writer and traveller Jean Mallat, noted in his opus “The Philippines: History, Geography and Customs” that “the most estimable indios are those in the provinces of Pampanga, Cagayan, Pangasinan, Ilocos and Cebu. They are almost generous, courageous, industrious and capable. Their defects are incessant deceit, and an unbridled passion for gambling, and especially cockfights.” 

 Cockfighting or sabong had always been the traditional gambling sport of Filipinos since the 16th century. Chronicler Antonio Pigafetta wrote about the sport in his “First Voyage Around the World”, noting that the “natives keep large cocks which they never eat, but which they keep for fighting purposes. Heavy bets are made on the upshot of the contest..”. 

 So valued where the fowls that it was said that when a Filipino’s home caught fire, he rescued first, his rooster, then his wife, and children. In 1771, the arch-episcopal palace in Manila ordered the secular clergy to “strive to banish the sport of cockfighting , not sparing any effort to do this..”. Similarly, Gov. Gen. Simon de Anda attempted to ban cockfighting to avoid the upsurge of thefts and robberies—to no avail. 

 After all, by 1779, the game was contributing significantly to government revenues, with earnings of over Php 30,000, even during time of War. As such, sabong operators were given permits to operate even on Sundays. Kapampangans took to the sports like crazy, and their shady reputation as bigtime sabungeros with political clout still prevails to this day. Almost every Pampanga town have their own coliseums, but specially Guagua, Mexico, Lubao and Bacolor are considered as sabong centers of the province today. 

 After cockfighting, the colonial government added in 1849, the loteria (lottery) as an official means to keep the coffers of the government full and to keep the Filipinos hopeful for a richer life. Before that, card games were all the rage in the archipelago, that included “panguingue”, a form of rummy originally from Mexico and “monte”. Then there was the “cuajo”, which was noted to be “favorable among Pampangos”. 

 But nothing was more popular than ”jueteng”, an illegal numbers game that originated in China and which caught on in the province like wildfire. Easy to play, one need only to call on a “kubrador” discreetly as he trod the neighborhood street. One then places a bet (as low as 10 pesos) on a chosen pair of numbers from 1 to 37. 

 Pampanga has often been described as “the Vatican of jueteng”. This was spurred by a political scandal in June 2005 in which relatives of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were suspected to have received pay-outs from jueteng operators, led by Bong Pineda of Lubao (husband of incumbent governor) and an alleged jueteng kingpin in 5 regions of the country. 

 Before the advent of San Miguel Beer and “markang demonyu”, Kapampangans in Minalin, and Sasmuan were already making native liquor of all sorts, like tuba and lambanug, all from coconut. Chinese distillers, however, proved to be master mixers, using Pampanga’s molasses from pilones. They supplied outlets with their intoxicating firewater, animating Kapampangans’ social sprees while dazing minds. In the 1930s, one can go to Salva’s Canteen in Angeles to buy all kinds of liquor, including whiskey and beer. 

 The illicit sale of liquor became widespread when the American population in Clark started to grow. A “Rum Row”existed in Clark as early as the 1930s, in which local entrepreneurs made rum for illegal sale to Americans. Homesick military men, out for a cheap, good time, took to heavy drinking, often resulting in some unfortunate accidents. For instance, on the night of January 23, 1938, five drunk officers figured in a car crash that resulted in the death of four; only the driver survived. Where wine is, a woman can’t be too far behind. 

 The lure of the flesh was another “evil” that Kapampangans find irresistible. A safe destination to meet girls in the Commonwealth years was the Amusement Palace Cabaret, operated by Juan Cortez in Angeles, which would soon be a hotspot for carnal knowledge. One of the rites of passage male teens dare to undergo is to hie off to the notorious “Area”, a place where one can have himself devirginized in a jiffy. Angeles was once described as “an amazing pattern of brothels, gin mills and dance halls” , during the heyday of Clark. 

Things appear to be unchanged if one were to believe eyewitness online accounts: ”Balibago is a non-stop drunken revel 7 days a week, every day of the year. Recreational sex is the sport of choice. If you are looking for a new friend for the night, you can almost certainly find a young lady to suit your taste..” 

 Alak, babae, sugal. For many Kapampangans, life is too short to go without a bisyu. Lead him not into temptation…he will find his way.

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